RG Motor

Transport Museum gave families a wonderful walk down memory lane

Owner Martins begins search for a new location
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For anyone interested in vintage vehicles or this island’s rich recent history, the Bermuda Transport Museum was the place to go.

With 100 motorcycles, eight vintage cars, horse and carriages, pedal bikes, boats and train memorabilia, tools, helmets, engines and even a visible restoration shop, the Dockyard attraction truly had something for everyone.

Sadly, after falling on hard times during the Covid-19 pandemic, the museum closed and its stock is currently in storage.

RG Mags talked with Mr Martins about his passion for vintage vehicles and the possible next steps for his venture.

Can you talk us through why you decided to open the Bermuda Transport Museum?

There isn’t anywhere on the island that preserves and displays a collection as large as mine. My collection covers railway, horse carriages, boats, bikes and cars.

My hope with the museum was preserving and passing on the knowledge and history that comes with all of it. At my last count I had over 250 bikes and 26 cars.

Besides the guys that remember, and a few of the younger guys, nobody knows what Bermuda used to be like. Getting our bikes at 16 was a big deal. Everyone (even the girls) could change a spark plug and learn how to fix the smaller problems. Slowly over the years we are losing the hands-on experience getting a bike used to give to our kids.

How did you become interested in vintage vehicles in the first place?

From a young age, I was interested in the way engines worked. When I was 13, I did some work for a co- worker of my dad and as payment he offered me his old 50cc 1972 Mobylette. I used to throw ropes over the branches of a tree and learned how to pull it apart and put it together again.

When I turned 16, that was the bike I licensed and put on the road for myself. I put a lot of miles on that bike over the years. That Mobylette is still in my collection today.

How did you go about acquiring your collection of bikes and cars?

My collection started with a scrambler Mobylette when I was 9. Once I was 16 I was able to keep adding to the collection.

Some are models that I like and others are ones that belonged to people I admired over the years. I have several bikes that I watched the owners customise over the years and when they were selling them I jumped at the chance to preserve the bikes just as they had them.

Some fell into my lap by chance and some I had to chase for years before I could add them to my collection. This was the case for some of the rarer ones such as my 1951 Bown as only 36 were imported into Bermuda.

Do you have any favourite models?

I don’t have one particular favourite. They are all very unique in their own way. But one thing I can say is you cannot mistake the sound of a vintage car or motorcycle coming down the road. That is unique.

How was the Museum received?

We had a lot of locals and tourists that loved it and were excited to see some of their bikes still around and in running order. We had quite a few repeat visitors. Sons brought their fathers and sometimes they would spend over an hour in the museum telling stories and talking about what they had or friends had.

We had a lot of guys who loved anything with a motor and fathers brought in their sons. It was nice to see whole families come in and spend time sharing the history and stories with the younger generations.

That is what the museum is about.

How would you describe your experience running the Museum?

I didn’t get to spend as much time at the museum as I would have liked, running my garage and horse farm. My wife, oldest daughter, and son used to run it most of the time.

I loved meeting people and sharing the stories that came with the items on display. Most of them had just as many stories to share with us, too.

We have had tourists that used to come in on the boats every year and they would bring us licence plates from where they are from.

Once a tourist came in and saw my son struggling to figure out the problem on a bike. The guy actually worked on similar bikes and started helping him. When he left, he said he would try to find a manual for us. The following year the gentleman came back with a book for the exact bike they had tried to fix the year before!

Do many Bermudians have an interest in vintage vehicles?

Most Bermudians who grew up with them, or who remember their parents talking about them or owning them, love vintage vehicles.

For many the museum was a walk-through memory lane of their younger years and the older people would share not just memories they made with the vehicles, but the history of what it was like back many years ago.

Why did it close? What happened to all your wonderful vintage items?

Unfortunately, we ended up having to close because of Covid-19. The foot traffic coming through the doors wasn’t the same. It got better each year as Covid subsided, but unfortunately the museum just could not sustain itself during those times.

Since closing in January, everything has gone back into storage until we are able to find another location. Having a central location for the museum would be advantageous but, in the meantime, they rent their vehicles for photo/video shoots or events, so think about them the next time you want an interactive, unique experience!

Reach out to the good folks from the Bermuda Transport Museum on [email protected].

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